On May 23, 2011, the Texas Senate unanimously voted in favor of passing House Bill 1353. The bill stipulates the Texas Transportation Commission has the authority to increase speed limits up to 75 miles per hour – including the speed limit for 18 wheelers – as well as allow the same day and night speed limit and eliminate the current truck speed limit on farm-to-market roads. An important issue yet to be determined is if the governor signs this bill into law, whether allowing the speed limit increase will cause a foreseeable hazard to other drivers.
In 2009, Texas Department of Transportation reported over 3,000 collision related deaths, resulting in an economic loss of over $20 billion. The authors of House Bill 1353 sought to minimize the number of accidents that occur when cars and trucks change lanes, pass, or tailgate slower-moving vehicles and establish uniformity with other states. However, the United States Department of Transportation Analysis of Speeding-Related Fatal Motor Vehicle Traffic Crashes has noted that since Congress abolished the National Maximum Speed Limit in 1995, speeding-related fatalities have been gradually increasing on roads with speed limits of 65 mph and above, while the fatalities are relatively stable on roads with a speed limit under 50 mph. With national statistics nearly refuting the authors’ rationale, some citizens are questioning whether this bill will cause more harm than good.
The bill has been sent to Governor Perry’s desk for signature. If he decides to sign the bill, I predict there will actually be an increase in traffic related injuries and deaths directly associated with the increased speed limit.